Medical Marijuana Bill SB 6265 Dead in Olympia, Medical Marijuana Advocates Rejoice in Seattle

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The divisive proposal from state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles to tighten the state's vague laws on medical marijuana dispensaries failed to receive enough votes to move out of committee last week, effectively ending the legislation's chances of passing this session. Now a group of pot activists who opposed the measure are throwing a party to celebrate.

The festivities are being hosted by Steve Sarich, head of the medical marijuana organization CannaCare. Sarich says he teamed up with other groups -- most notably Seattle's Cannabis Defense Coalition -- to launch a campaign to have medical pot patients call their legislators and urge them to kill Kohl-Welles' bill.

Even though the bill had the potential to shore up the legality of dispensaries in some areas, the activists were opposed to SB 6265 because it would have allowed rural areas to ban the business, and created a patient registry accessible to law enforcement. Sarich estimates the combined effort resulted in 3,000 phone calls to lawmakers in Olympia.

"It was the first time since I've been an activist here in Washington that patients finally stood up for their own rights and made countless phone calls to the legislature," Sarich says. "That's what killed it. The leaders of various groups jumped on it -- we all realized it was a piece of bad legislation and motivated the troops to get out and do it."

Kohl-Welles seems to be taking the defeat in stride, telling the Seattle Times the bill would have likely mustered enough votes to pass had it gone before the entire Senate. A similar proposal from her last year was approved by lawmakers but partially vetoed by the governor.

"The bottom line is, it was very difficult to reach a full consensus," Kohl-Welles said of SB 6265's demise. "There wasn't as much momentum and interest as there was last year."

Any inertia for Kohl-Welles' bill was likely stymied by the calling campaign, and a lengthy list of prominent opponents that included the CDC's Ben Livingston, Sensible Washington campaign director Doug Hiatt, and cannabis attorneys Aaron Pelley and Kurt Boehl.* Sarich says several of those folks will attend his soiree Saturday, where they will discuss new patient legislation for the next session. According to Sarich, the plan is to draft the bill themselves this time around, and pitch it to a sponsor -- presumably, not Kohl-Welles.

*Correction posted at 10:25 a.m.:Boehl was not an opponent of SB 6265, and in fact worked for its passage.

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